“Are you ready to make a full disclosure?”

Tuesday, January 3, 2006 by

After waiting about eight years, today in WH Smith – quite by surprise – I stumbled across a DVD release of the 1997 BBC drama Holding On.

Given my off air copy got chewed up by a defective video recorder some time ago, re-watching the series has been a pleasant if nostalgic experience (oh boy, don’t those typefaces look so ’90s, and watch out for an advertising billboard heralding the arrival of Channel 5). However, with Phil Daniels’ Britpop influenced character left to one side, the drama stands up surprisingly well.

But there were a number of questions that came to mind after watching episode one.

Firstly, is this the last really good thing that Tony Marchant ever wrote? More worryingly is the last ever really good signature piece serial in the mould of the public dramas of GBH and Our Friends in the North? I have a horrible feeling that it is (State of Play and In a Land of Plenty both come close but neither quite manages to capture that sense of epic scale), and telly is a poorer place as a result.

Whilst I suppose it’s good to see the BBC can still show faith in the television scriptwriter as the ultimate authorial voice (there are a couple of Poliakoff dramas scheduled for 2006), there seems to have been a move towards more personally driven narratives. Whether this is the fault of economics or simply that there are no writers out there currently able to bring us 21st century equivalents of Edge of Darkness, it’s difficult to say. Certainly Merchant’s Passer By (2004) was a bit rubbish. Anyway, apparently we’ll be able to see for ourselves later this year with his new drama The Family Man.


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